Sahib dropped Akshay and me at my uncle’s place. Upon ringing the door bell we were greeted by my sister. She sprang her arms around me. Pecked me on the cheeks and shrieked, “I knew this would work out.” All my attention was sidetracked from the pain and the accident. She was the most benign member of my extended family. My sweet little sister (we are of the same age, but it’s always the brother who feels bigger and conscientious.) Her dark brown hair waved with a gush of air that freed my tensed nerves. The freckles on her face were not a result of age, but a sign of fret and relief on holding her dearest brother tightly after such a long time. Her eyes, a shade darker than mine, were shut. She only opened those almond contoured eyes to look at Akshay. We had never had any sibling rivalry. We owed this to the fact that my uncle treated me as the son he always wanted and my cousin was overwhelmed by the distinction of being the only girl in the whole of Dehradoon who could address me as “Brother”, without offending me.
So I got back to my position and Aakrisht returned to the stands. It was difficult but I was able to achieve the trance yet again. Beginning the count again from zero with huge gulps of air my body got numb. Once the usual scenario set-in by the fifty fourth gasp there was a long pause. My devil’s foot could be let loose any moment. All the usual scents, all the usual sounds, all the usual tastes and all the usual presence had been replaced by absence.
Absence of the self once achieved is hard to live without. And to live with it, one must live in that isolated moment forever wherein one shoots the ball carefully spaced between two flanking heart beats. The awestruck crowds of parents, teachers, classmates and (most importantly) the opposition fans were taken by surprise as I flexed my muscles just after the eighty eighth throb of the chest. How perfectly I executed a “le’ Del Peiro Penalty“. I stood still with each and every muscle of my body numb.
As the ball left my foot I heard a ‘noise’. It became clearer and I heard a ‘voice’. On further analysis I heard a ‘prayer’. And I heard another one and another one and it all again became a ‘noise’. I have not heard this noise for over a decade now. These voices that stay with us all our lives might just vanish one day when we start treating them as noises. The noise today was quite eloquent. It comprised of prayers and swears. The most audible one belonged to my friend the Robot, who secretly wanted to lose the bet. A good friend always knows when to win and why to lose.